Finished Dryer Will Text You

Here’s a slightly different way to check on the status of your laundry. Instead of checking if the machine is vibrating, or listening for sound, or pulling everything apart and hacking an ESP8266 into it, check the power that the machine is drawing. This is what [Scrand] did in his IoT dryer build.

The secret behind the hack is the Sonoff POW, a small device that sits in between the wall and the dryer. It has a relay in it that controls it, but, importantly for this hack, it’s able to measure the power consumption used by what’s plugged into it. By installing the ESPurna firmware on it, he can now use all the power of the firmware to control and monitor what’s connected to the POW. He wrote a PowerShell script to monitor the http server now running on the POW checking on how much power is being drawn by the dryer. When that power drops, the laundry is done, and in the case of [Scrand], a text is sent saying so.

When you’re sitting on the couch relaxing, why get up every five minutes to check your laundry when you can have it text you when you know it’s done? Then you can decide whether to get up and deal with it or just leave it until later. The whole reason ESPurna exists to begin with is to check on the status of the laundry.  Or, you can go a bit overboard with this laundry room monitor.

Internet of Things Opens Possibilities

While a lot of hardware gets put on the “Internet of Things” with only marginal or questionable benefits (or with hilariously poor security), every now and then a project makes use of this new platform in a way that illustrates the strengths of IoT. [ThingEngineer] turned to this platform as a cost-effective solution for an automatic gate, since new keyfobs were too expensive and a keypad was not an option.

Using an Electric IMP, [ThingEngineer] began by installing his IoT patch into the LiftMaster gate control box. This particular gate has easily accessible points that the controller can access to determine the gate’s status, so from there, an API was written to do the heavy lifting. A web server was deployed as well, so anyone with access can use a smartphone or other device to open the gate.

For anyone else looking to deploy a similar IoT solution, [ThingEngineer] has put all of the project code, schematics, and a thorough write-up about the project on his GitHub page. There are many useful ways to get on board the Internet of Things, though; so many that it’s been possible to win a substantial prize for using it in a creative way.

Review: IoT Data Logging Services with MQTT

For the last few months, I had been using Sparkfun’s Phant server as a data logger for a small science project. Unfortunately, they’ve had some serious technical issues and have discontinued the service. Phant was good while it lasted: it was easy to use, free, and allowed me to download the data in a CSV format. It shared data with, which at the time was a good solution for data visualization.

While I could continue using Phant since it is an open-source project and Sparkfun kindly releases the source code for the server on Github, I thought it might be better to do some research, see what’s out there. I decided to write a minimal implementation for each platform as an interesting way to get a feel for each. To that end, I connected a DHT11 temperature/humidity sensor to a NodeMCU board to act as a simple data source.

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Casa Jasmina Two Years On

[Bruce Sterling], author of fiction and nonfiction tomes aplenty, wrote up one of his projects for Makezine: Casa Jasmina, an IoT “house of the future”. Located in Torino, Italy, it was built upstairs from the Torino Fab Lab as a collaboration between [Bruce], his wife [Jasmina Tesanovic], and a number of other contributors. The original vision was for Casa Jasmina to be jam packed with cool laser-cut furniture, glowing LED projects, and other Maker Faire goodies.

In his piece, however, [Bruce] dials back Casa Jasmina’s technology focus. At a time when people add dodgy WiFi-capable devices to their house willy-nilly, he made it clear that it’s not just a huge assembly of projects no one fully understands. The concept of “making”, [Bruce] writes in his piece, involves algorithms and circuit boards and computer-controlled fabrication machines, and marginalizes those who don’t understand or find fascinating technological innovations. To those who love fabrication, for instance, there is a giddiness involved in creating one’s own chair out of plywood — but end users mostly just care that the creation works like a chair. The place is an AirBNB which makes it a great testbed for providing only what is needed, trusted, and stable.

For  more futuristic houses, check out our coverage of 3D-printed concrete houses and this Pi-controlled automated green house.



Custom Lightbulb Firmware

The Internet of Things is developing at a rapid pace, as hobbyists and companies rush to develop the latest and greatest home automation gear. One area of particular interest to some is lighting – yes, even the humble lightbulb now comes with a brain and is ripe for the hacking.

[Tinkerman] starts by doing a full disassembly of the Sonoff B1 lightbulb. It’s a popular device, and available for less than $20 on eBay. Rated at 6 watts, the bulb has a heatsink that is seemingly far larger than necessary. Inside is the usual AC/DC converter, LED driver and an ESP8285 running the show. While this is a slightly different part to the usual ESP8266, it can be programmed in the same way by selecting the correct programming mode.

This is where it gets interesting – [Tinkerman] flashes the device with a custom firmware known as ESPurna. This firmware enables greater control over the function of the bulb, from colour choice, to speaking to the bulb over MQTT.

[Tinkerman] does a great job of walking through the exact steps needed to disassemble and reprogram the bulb, and touches upon the added flexibility given by the custom firmware. We love to see projects like this one, that give greater control over IoT devices and enable users to better integrate them with other systems.

Hackaday Prize Entry: An Internet Doorbell

The Internet of Things will kill us all and is the worst idea anyone has ever had. However, just because something could be labeled an ‘Internet of Things thing’ doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. The Hackaday Prize’s Internet of Useful Things challenge was all about finding the Internet of Useful things, and one of these projects is so simple yet so elegant, we’re surprised no one has thought of it yet.

[David]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize is effectively an Internet of Things doorbell. You might think an IoT doorbell would just consist of a device sending push notifications to your phone. That’s part of the project, but it gets so much better.

The brilliant part of this build boils down to a simple relay. On command, [David] can turn his doorbell off. This means no ringing doorbell interrupting meals or naps. By sending a command to the ESP32 in this little device, [David] can enable or disable his doorbell. Of course, this doorbell also sends push notifications to his phone, so if the UPS guy throws a package at his front door and manages to hit the doorbell, [David] will still hear it even if he’s upstairs, in the garage, or in the backyard.

This is the simplest and most brilliant Internet of Things device ever created. It solves an obvious problem with surprisingly little hardware. The only data this device collects is the state of a doorbell, and even if this device was completely hacked by balaclava-wearing hackers, they still can’t F5 the doorbell. This is the best the Internet of Things has to offer, and we’re proud to have the Internet of Doorbells make it to the finals of the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Internet of Fidget Spinners

We just closed out the Internet of Useful Things round of the Hackaday Prize, which means we’re neck deep in judging projects to move onto the final round this fall. Last week, everyone on was busy getting their four project logs and illustrations ready for the last call in this round of the Hackaday Prize. These projects are the best of what the Internet of Things has to offer because this is the Internet of Useful things.

We’re not sure how [Matthias]’ project will rank. It’s an Internet of Things fidget spinner. Yeah, we know, but there are some interesting engineering challenges in building an Internet-connected fidget spinner.

This is a PoV fidget spinner, which means the leading edges of this tricorn spinner are bedazzled with APA102 LEDs. Persistence-of-vision toys are as old as Hackaday, and the entire idea of a fidget spinner is to spin, so this at least makes sense.

These PoV LEDs are driven by an ESP8285, or an ESP8266 with onboard Flash. This is probably the smallest wireless microcontroller you can find, an important consideration for such a small build. Power comes from a tiny LiPo, and additional peripherals include an accelerometer to measure wobble and an optical switch to measure the rotation speed.

These electronics are fairly standard, and wouldn’t look out of place in any other project in The Hackaday Prize. The trick here is mechanical. [Matthias] needs to mount a skateboard bearing to a PCB, and no one has any idea how he’s going to do that. A fidget spinner should be well-balanced, and again [Matthias] is running into a problem. Has anyone here ever done mass and density calculations on PCBs and lithium cells? Is it possible to 3D print conformal counterweights? Has science gone too far?

Will the Internet of Things PoV Fidget Spinner make it to the finals round of The Hackaday Prize? We’ll need to wait a week or so to find out. One thing is for certain, though: you’re going to see this on AliBaba before September.